Ok I know that I just had a post about goat cheese on bread with delicious accoutrements. And I really try to keep my posts varied on here. Because unlike me, you all probably don’t enjoy eating the same soup leftovers every day for two weeks’ worth of dinner.
But I swear this was an accident. Do you want to look inside my brain and witness the stream of consciousness first-hand on my journey to this snack that ended up being a great recipe to feature on the blog? It might explain a few things. (But also warning there are like two swears in here because my brain has no filter)
“Okay, Kelsey. Let’s make something seasonal because you really need to start eating things that are fresh and wonderful instead of butter and sugar and cheese and frozen peas. Okay let’s check out what’s in season. Oooh grapes! I love baking with grapes. Let’s try this galette from Food52. This looks so yummy and it has tahini and honey. Perfect.”
“Grocery shoppinnnnnn. Shit I can’t find anything except seedless table grapes. Not even a bunch of concords in sight. Okay hmm what else have we got here? Figs! Perfect. I’ve never actually cooked/baked with figs before. Only with fig jam and such. Great—one flat of those please. Look how pretty they are!”
*Star-swipe to next day*
“Woo let’s make these figs! This galette will make a nice Instagram photo maybe. Oh I forgot tahini? Hmmm well I’ve got goat cheese. Which is also an acceptable spread I think. But also now all I want to do is catch up on Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars and Real Housewives of New Jersey. Because it is the weekend. So I think that means I need like an upscale snack that I can easily keep grabbing for. Oh I know—Crostini!”
“So I’ve got bread, goat cheese, and figs; honey and balsamic are a must, but also my chives are basically dead in the garden because I forgot to water them, so I’ll throw them in there. You know, to save them. And I saw a tart recipe once that put shallots with figs. That’s a good idea. I’ve got some shallots. I think caramelizing them would work… Yeah this is gonna be good”
*1 hour later*
“I just ate three of these. OMG. Let’s make them again except for the blog this time. And probably refine the appearance just a bit. Like right away before figs go out of season. Oh nooooo wait I just had little bread snacks with tomato jam for Wine Wednesday. And I even spread goat cheese on there. Hmmmm fuck it. I still like the recipe. Fig crostini is the queen.”
So folks that’s the story of these fig and shallot crostinis! Riveting right? Yeah you probably just skipped over all that. But that’s okay. Moral of the story is I’m putting these guys on here because they’re delicious and easy and wonderful for fall feelings. And let’s not pretend that things delivered to your mouth on bread without the use of any utensils isn’t awesome. And you’ll probably forgive me for not being all perfect and giving off the illusion that I eat all of these different kinds of things all the time. That’s not real, right? And admit it—these are kind of fancy-feeling. Which makes it kind of okay to repeat. Probably.
Anyway, let’s talk about a less ramble-y part of this post. The science. I may have chosen shallots initially at random to add sweetness and savory-ness, but they’re actually the perfect pair for this recipe rather than another onion such as a yellow or white onion. Or even garlic. Why you ask? Let’s talk alliums. Because they are quite literally my favorite plant group. (They’re Molly’s too, so that makes me feel cool)
IN APPRECIATION OF ALLIUMS
There are sulfur-based compounds in the cells of plants that belong to the allium family that evolved as a defense mechanism. Onions, garlic, and chives of all varieties. In layman’s terms, when you damage the cells of the plant, the sulfur compounds are released and lay siege at the attacker. Particularly in garlic, as we’ve touched on before, the sulfur compound Allyl methyl sulfide (AMS) is designed to permeate through your skin cells and irritate them. Direct contact. It can even cause your skin to blister with enough contact. And wicked bad breath as it moves through your blood and lungs.
Kind of makes you think twice about the good old vampire legend. Garlic was one of their weaknesses…hmm that seems like it would be a legit defense. Those alliums sure do know how to defend themselves!
But then we’ve got onions. They have a totally different war tactic. Rather than depending on hand-to-hand contact, they employ a different sulfurous compound that permeates through the air and launches itself at your nose and eyes. Hello teary eyes and runny nose!
What differentiates very similar sulfur components from being chained to the land like in garlic while those in onion get to frolic in the air? (I realize that is the very worst personification I have ever attributed to molecules. My thesis advisor would be cringing so hard RN) Well the AMS in garlic is actually a rather large molecule which makes it really unlikely (kind of impossible) that it could fly up among the tiny air molecules. The sulfur-based molecule found in onions, however, is relatively tiny and free to catapult all the way to your eye sockets. This has a medieval sounding torture term or possibly an independent horror film title called the “lachrymatory factor.”
So why are shallots so perfect you ask? Well in order to perfectly accompany our luscious fig and ‘goaty’ goat cheese, we kind of want something mild and sweet but savory at the same time. Basically a nice mellow back note to let the fig shine. Most onions have quite a lot of the pungent sulfurous compound that causes the lachrymatory factor. But shallots, on the other hand, have much less of this compound creating more of a mild onion flavor. That’s why so many salads and dressings use raw shallots rather than other onion varieties.
However, it gets more complicated because in this case, we are heating these onions in order to create all of those wonderful Maillard reaction notes. And heat actually disarms alliums and cuts out those sulfur weapons. But in this recipe, we still prefer shallots. We’re only briefly caramelizing the shallots because we must get back to watching Alyssa Edwards ASAP. That fast cooking step is possible and gives us a great flavor in such a short period of time because of the lack of pungent molecules in the first place (this is very simplified, of course).
Now you very perceptive readers are probably like, “But Kelsey you put chives in there too! Aren’t they members of the allium family?” Very good! Chives are alliums but have very low amounts of these sulfur compounds. They also have a separate sulfur molecule that smells and tastes more green like cabbage. Though this is very mild as well except in some chive varieties like Chinese chives.
Okay that probably qualifies as a novel. So I’ll just leave the recipe here now. Happy little-sandwich-ing!
Fig and Shallot Crostini
12 thick slices (about 1 inch thick) French bread
6 figs, cut in half and stemmed
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh chives
- Preheat an oven to 350⁰F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Slice the shallots in half, removing the husky outside. Slice the shallot-halves into thin half-moons. Heat a bit of olive oil or butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallots to the pan when hot. Stir around and reduce heat to low. Cook for 12-15 minutes until softened and slightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Heat a separate, medium skillet over medium heat. Butter one side of the bread slices with about ½ teaspoon – 1 teaspoon on each slice. As if you’re making a grilled cheese.
- Working in batches, toast the buttered side of the bread slices until golden brown. About 3 minutes. When a slice is done, place it butter-side-up on the lined pan to prevent the bread from getting soggy. Repeat for all slices.
- When all toasted, turn the slices over—wipe off any condensation with a paper towel from the foil if necessary.
- Top the slices with a spread of goat cheese. Split the shallots between the slices followed by the chives and fig halves. Add a tiny drizzle of balsamic, a crack of black pepper, and a sprinkle of kosher salt to each.
- Bake the crostinis in the preheated oven until the fig is softened—about 10 minutes. Don’t bake for too long otherwise the goat cheese will dry out. This should make your bread nice and crispy though.
- Remove from the oven when done and let cool for a couple of minutes. Add a drizzle of honey to the top of each crostini and serve!